This morning we got up and went into Byron for some breakfast at a little place called the Dip. We had planned to do some walking around afterwards but we were both too full and lazy once we finished. I hadn’t been up to the Byron Lighthouse yet so we decided to drive up. Whale watching season as started here on the coast and I am eager for a glimpse of some migrating humpbacks. I guess a lot of other people had the same idea on a Saturday morning around 10:30am, weird, and there was no parking available at the top. We decided that sometime next week we’d do the walk up and take it in that way. From what I saw from the car it’s absolutely beautiful, so I’m looking forward to that.
The past couple of days have been pretty busy with lots of cooking and outings. On Wednesday we ate quite well with some Turkish and Mediterranean food. I tried a Turkish chicken shawarma recipe and paired it with Turkish pilav and a simple chickpeas salad. This pilav was delicious. After being soaked in hot water and salt until the water cooled, 1 cup of rice is rinsed again and then cooked in 3 tbsp of butter and 1 c of chicken stock. Seasoning with salt and pepper after. It was very easy and incredibly delicious.
For the salad I just chopped up onion, tomato, cucumber and parsley, mixed in one can of chickpeas, and whisked lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin together for dressing. We had a fair amount of this leftover which I ate the next day for lunch. I even think it tasted better as the chickpeas had softened up from soaking up the dressing overnight.
The chicken was grilled after being marinated in a lovely variety of herbs and spices and we couldn’t decide if we liked this chicken more or less than our other shawarma style chicken dish. Fraser did like this yogurt dressing recipe better, while I liked the other one. This one is thicker and less lemony, and has chopped garlic in it. I also mixed in some chopped parsley which was nice. Next time I think I’ll combine these two dressing recipes. Using the same amount of lemon juice from the first one and then the chopped garlic and parsley from the second.
Before I had made dinner that day I experimented with a new popsicle recipe. I had previously thrown together some using greek yogurt and leftover fruit compote. They’d been ok, but not a fan favourite in this house. Fraser had brought up the idea of a creamsicle which intrigued me and I had found a recipe that looked good. This recipe also claims that each popsicle is only 53 calories which seemed reasonable. So I whisked together orange juice (I bought the good stuff – Nudie – which is only made out of real squeezed oranges), low-fat greek yogurt, some vanilla extract and a bit of sugar. These are a huge improvement over my experimental ones. We’ve only got two left right now and I think these will be a repeat recipe.
Thursday night ended up being quite the chaotic kitchen experience. I have a bunch of recipes on my reading list that have yet to be attempted so I sometimes ask Fraser to decide which one I do. On Tuesday he had decided on Wednesday’s meal which left me with a balsamic chicken and roasted vegetable dish for Thursday. Stay with me and I’ll continue listing the days of the week for you.
Thursday we got up early and went to the beach. This was our first visit to Brighton and Ocean Shores since the storm and you could definitely see the change in landscape and a huge increase in the number of seashells in the sand. Fraser hadn’t thought it would be warm enough for laying out on towels but I had layered up in my spf 50 and put on my bathing suit anyways. I’m pretty proud that I’ve now been here a month and I haven’t gotten burnt yet (which is quite the feat with my ghostly complexion)…downside is that my complexion is still ghostly. It ended up being surprisingly hot and we relaxed on the sand for a couple hours. We stopped and picked up groceries for dinner on our way home, as well as a blow dryer. I’ve finally admitted that I do not want to live without one and that taming my cowlick is sometimes necessary.
Upon returning home I began the kitchen extravaganza. This meant prepping what I could for the veggies and marinade since we were in the middle of a scheduled power outage from 9am-3pm that day. I brined the chicken and put it in the fridge and then tried not to open the door again. After I’d done all that I could for dinner prep I turned to making graham crackers. Now here I’m going to digress and just talk about these crackers for quite a while and then return to dinner.
A couple weeks ago when we were in the middle of severe dessert withdrawal and trying to figure out something to make, Fraser found a recipe for a low-fat cheesecake. I’m going to mention our chocolate disagreement again because it’s a big part of my struggle. Dessert to me means chocolate. If I’m out to dinner and looking at a dessert menu, I automatically scan it until I see the word chocolate. My favourite kind of ice cream is chocolate, just plain chocolate. You get the drift. Cheesecake is a dessert me and Fraser can very much agree on though (but chocolate cheesecake…just saying). So the next day when we’d gone shopping we’d picked up some cream cheese. Just to have on hand, in case of cheesecake emergency.
I’d tried to pick up graham crumbs once last week, but after not finding them in the flour section I’d gotten distracted by some list item or other and forgotten. So I went back on Wednesday with them specifically on my list. I don’t like shopping of any kind, it’s usually a speed game for me, so if something’s not on my list there’s only a 25% chance it gets picked up. Now I searched that Supa IGA high and low and could not find even a hint of graham crackers. So, I googled it. Aussies have a lot of different names for regular supermarket items, so google has become my best friend when I can’t find something. Red pepper = capsicum. Green onions = scallions. Baking soda = bi-carb soda. But this time when I googled I got some interesting links popping up. All of which were asking ‘WHY DON’T YOU HAVE GRAHAM CRACKERS IN AUSTRALIA!?” Maybe they weren’t that aggressive, but this accurately portrays my shock and outrage. How does this wonderful country not have graham crackers? How do they eat s’mores? How do they make crust for cheesecake? HOW? I returned home and told Fraser. He, for once, responded appropriately to my grocery store tale of woe. He didn’t believe me and thought I just couldn’t find them and was being dramatic as usual, because what country doesn’t have graham crackers! The new plan emerged. I was going to make my own graham crackers, so that I could make them into crumbs and then make them into crust. Already I was tired.
I found a Martha Stewart recipe and realized I didn’t have whole wheat flour (which is where these crackers get their name) or wheat germ. So dinner was put on hold and I returned to Supa IGA for the 47th time this week. I found the flour right away and then spent the next 30 minutes combing that store for wheat germ – the setup is very confusing (bad) – which I finally found over by the hot dog buns, mmmkaay.
At this point it was too late to even start them, so they got put on hold until the next day. And now we’re finally back to Thursday evening. After prepping the veggies and marinade, I started making the graham cracker dough. It was simple enough and only used an entire block of butter…for our health. After the dough is made you quarter it and then roll each quarter out between two pieces of parchment paper and then put them in the freezer for 20 minutes before baking. This is where the nights problems began. First off we don’t have a rolling-pin. So I tried a new roll of garbage bags I found in a drawer – the roll was too soft to be effective. Then I settled on a bottle of soda water, this worked ok and I stuck with it. After rolling out 1/4 of the dough to what I thought was 1/8 of an inch I went to start the second dough ball. Enter problem number two: we were out of parchment paper. So seeing as time was ticking away I saran-wrapped the remaining dough and stuck it in the fridge.
The power had returned during this adventure so I started dinner properly. Another hurdle we have in this house is that our oven is in fact a toaster oven. And while it’s a really nice one and gets really hot, yadda yadda, it is still the size of a toaster oven. This meant that with the amount of veggies that needed to be roasted alongside the chicken, there was not going to be enough room in this oven. I decided to just roast the veggies and to cook the chicken on the stove. This was necessary since not even all the veggies fit on the pan.
Fraser had mentioned having quinoa alongside this, so we’d picked up some of that as well. The veggies went in the oven (minus the mushrooms and red pepper which I decided to also do on stove top). Then I put the two pans of chicken on the stove. When those were almost halfway through I put the quinoa on. Add one stove at 425ºF, three gas burners on high and one unseasonably warm day together and you get a very sweaty and increasingly overwhelmed Georgia. Fraser and a glass of sparkling wine were called in as reinforcements.
The dinner turned out surprisingly good. The potatoes weren’t cooked completely through, but since they weren’t in the original recipe and I was finally sitting down, no one cared that much. The pans looked burnt to hell, but since it was a balsamic marinade this was to be expected (they’re still soaking). While the recipe had turned out to be for four (how did I miss that?), it ended up being nice as we finished it off for lunch yesterday.
After dinner I cooked my prepped sheet of graham cracker. It turned out delicious, but I obviously hadn’t rolled it out thin enough as it was still quite soft and chewy, not hard like a cracker. As this was all scientific experimenting we decided to dispose of the product into our stomachs and try again with the next dough ball.
Friday morning we went into Tweed to catch the 10:30am showing of The Nice Guys with the retirement crowd. Definitely the best people to see a movie with. They don’t play with their phones or talk and I love them for it. The movie is pretty original and we both really enjoyed it and had some good laughs. Upon arriving home we had the leftovers for lunch and then I made my second attempt at the crackers. These I rolled a lot thinner and they were much closer to a graham cracker. Once those were cooled I set about making the cheesecake, finally. Since this all began so long ago I don’t even know which recipe Fraser had originally found. I just picked one that looked good off skinnytaste and gave it a whirl. My crackers turned to crumbs quite nicely and I mixed them with butter and pressed them into the pan for a crust. This was much trickier than I thought it would be. You spray the pan with cooking spray first so it’s quite slippery and the crumbs will get stuck on your hands if you mess with them for too long. I fiddled with it for a while until I was satisfied and then moved on to the cheese portion of things. The filling is cream cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract, flour and egg whites. Once it’s done you pour it over the crust. The tricky bit was putting these dollops of strawberry jam on top of this and then swirling around. It’s very pretty. I’d bought some of that real fruit, no sugar added, healthy real jam. This was probably the wrong call. It did not want to spread and create pretty red swirl across the top of my cheesecake. It was also not the pretty bright red of normal strawberry jam, but the more dull, golden brown colour of homemade jam.
After it cooked and cooled I decided to cut up some strawberries and place them on top since I was annoyed mine was not as pretty. Fraser told me that looks don’t matter, it’s all about the taste. This kind of logic was not asked for. By the time the cheesecake had cooled to room temperature and was ready for the fridge it was already 6:30pm. Cheesecake should be refrigerated for a few hours before eating so we decided to save trying it for today. Willpower is hard. So now that breakfast is hours behind us, we’ve decided to be cheeky and have a slice for lunch to see how it turned out. I am very excited.
The results are in. It’s good, especially the filling. The crumb base did not live up to my expectations. Now what I think went wrong is the amount of crumb base. This recipe called for 1/2 c of crumbs mixed with 1 tbsp of butter. I think, for my pan at least, this wasn’t enough. The crust was too thin and not dry and crunchy enough. Next time I would stray from the recipe and make the crust a lot thicker, but overall it was quite tasty and not too heavy (tasting).
graham crackers: http://www.marthastewart.com/343771/homemade-graham-crackers
balsamic chicken: http://www.skinnytaste.com/balsamic-chicken-with-roasted/
strawberry swirl cheesecake: http://www.skinnytaste.com/strawberry-swirl-cheesecake/